What Is Family Diplomacy?
Our world is becoming more complex and interdependent as more people, goods, services and interactions flow across national borders. This changing global reality has triggered xenophobic, sometimes violent reactions that have been validated and amplified by political activists and opportunistic leaders. Diplomacy is rightly upheld as an important response to the mounting tensions within and between some countries, but diplomacy should not be left strictly to professionals. The internet and smart phones open exciting possibilities for citizens to be involved in diplomacy to help promote peace, prosperity and justice, but success and our global future depend in part on fresh approaches. This is the fourth in a series of posts intended to advance family diplomacy as a new form of citizen diplomacy for a more caring world. Read the first post here.
This post, in the form of a Q&A, answers some basic questions about family diplomacy, and how to become a Family Diplomat, or a Family Diplomacy Ambassador.
Why family diplomacy?
Families are widely valued across the world, and deeply impacted by international affairs, from global trade, to immigration, to climate change. Yet the voices of families are hardly heard in intergovernmental bodies like the United Nations, even as the voices of youth and women are rightly being amplified. Allowing families to connect, share, learn, and speak publicly to their needs, concerns and aspirations in and to governments across the world is vital to nurturing a more caring world. Learn more about why families should be involved in diplomacy here.
What is family diplomacy?
Family diplomacy means three things:
- Families talking and learning together across lines of country, class, race and religion.
- Families publicly voicing their own and other families’ needs, concerns and aspirations.
- Families participating in the decisions that affect their lives via local to global nonprofits, governments and businesses.
Currently, via our Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI), Learning Life is actively pursuing 1 and 2 above, and planning for 3.
To learn more about the idea of and reasons for family diplomacy, click here.
What is the Family Diplomacy Initiative?
Launched in 2016, the Family Diplomacy Initiative or FDI is the program through which Learning Life advances family diplomacy worldwide. In 2017-2019, Learning Life completed two pilot projects — a community photo project and a food culture project — that engaged a small number of lower-income families in the USA, El Salvador, Senegal and Jordan. Since summer 2019, we have been scaling up FDI to encourage thousands of people worldwide to share and learn about family life via our FDI Facebook Group. In 2020, we completed a larger food culture project, and in 2021 we organized a series of six live international family dialogues focused on the question: “what do families worldwide need to be safe and healthy?”
How can I become a Family Diplomat (FD)?
Family diplomacy will evolve as Learning Life develops FDI, but right now, here are some simple ways you can get involved as an FD:
- Join our Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI) on Facebook to connect, share and learn with a growing number of families across the globe.
- Respond to the “Eye on Families” questions posed on the FDI Facebook Group.
- Fill out your own “We Are Family Diplomats” Poster with a photo of your family plus your family’s completion of the sentence: “We are family diplomats because…” See the above poster for an example from the Gowtham Family in India. You can email us with your family photo, sentence completion, family name, city and country at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone in the world can become a FD free of charge. However, FDs should:
- Be on Facebook, and willing to join our FDI Facebook Group.
- Have at least one family member — and much preferably more than one — who are committed to participating in FDI activities, including periodic live international dialogues via Zoom.
- Have a strong enough internet connection to participate in Zoom audio or video calls.
- Speak English at at least an intermediate level.
- Be at least 14 years old, and mature enough to participate meaningfully in FD activities.
Serving as one of Learning Life’s Family Diplomats takes about 3-5 hours per month on average. The benefits include:
- Make new friends across the world.
- Develop a deeper understanding of the forces impacting families, and the perspectives of family members worldwide.
- Gain a resume-building experience (for those who want it)
- Get the chance to win recognition as one of Learning Life’s best Family Diplomats for those who participate most actively.
How can I become a Family Diplomacy Ambassador (FDA)?
Family Diplomacy Ambassadors (FDAs) are motivated young people ages 14 to 30 anywhere in the world who volunteer as part of an international FDA team to help grow family diplomacy worldwide, and get mentoring and training in citizen diplomacy.
FDAs can live anywhere in the world, but must be/have:
- At least 14 years old
- A strong enough internet connection to allow for at least audio if not video participation in international FDA Team meetings.
- Active on Facebook, or willing to set up and use a Facebook account.
- Motivated to help grow our Family Diplomacy Initiative, and advocate for families.
- Able and willing to volunteer 4-5 hours/week for 4-5 months.
- Speak English at a strong intermediate to fluent level.
The benefits of becoming an FDA are:
- Be part of an international team sharing, learning and working together to help make the world more connected and caring.
- Get resume-building experience as an international citizen diplomat advocating for families.
- Receive an official Learning Life FDA Certificate if you satisfactorily complete service as an FDA.
- The best performing FDAs also have the chance to win special recognition for their achievement.
How does Learning Life define family?
Families come in all shapes and sizes, so we define families broadly as two or more people who love each other, or one or more people and one or more pets who love each other non-sexually (and preferably live with each other). This includes same-sex and opposite-sex couples, unmarried couples, couples with or without children, single parents with one or more kids, single persons with one or more pets, siblings or cousins living together, grandparents living with grandchildren, and others. The importance of family is love, not who loves.
Photo below: Family representatives from Venezuela and the USA share their answers in the FDI Facebook Group in answer to the question “what does breakfast look like in your family?” as part of Learning Life’s 2020 food culture project.